Foodborne pathogens and disease

Investigation of a Staphylococcal Food Poisoning Outbreak from a Chantilly Cream Dessert, in Umbria (Italy).

PMID 28402712


On August 28, 2015, a staphylococcal food poisoning outbreak occurred in Umbria, Italy, affecting 24 of the 42 customers who had dinner at a local restaurant. About 3 h after ingesting a variety of foods, the customers manifested gastrointestinal symptoms. Within 24 h of notification from the hospital emergency department, Sanitary Inspectors of the local Public Health Unit performed an epidemiological investigation. A retrospective cohort study was conducted among the customers. Food and environmental samples were collected. Due to the rapid onset of symptoms (vomiting, diarrhea), the food samples were analyzed for the presence of toxigenic bacteria and their toxins; nasopharyngeal swabs were collected from the waiters and cooks. Among the food tested, high levels of coagulase-positive staphylococci (CPS) (3.4 × 10(8) CFU/g) and staphylococcal enterotoxins (2.12 ng SEA/g) were only detected in the Chantilly cream dessert. CPS were also detected on the surface of a kitchen table (10 CFU/swab), and five food handlers were positive for Staphylococcus aureus. In total, five enterotoxigenic S. aureus isolates were recovered from three food handlers, a kitchen surface, and the Chantilly cream dessert. These isolates were further characterized by biotyping, pulsed-field gel electrophoresis, and multiplex polymerase chain reaction assays for the detection of eleven enterotoxin encoding genes (sea, seb, sec, sed, see, seg, seh, sei, sej, sep, and ser) and three genes involved in antibiotic resistance (mecA, mecC, and mupA). Three sea-positive strains, isolated from the dessert, environment, and one of the cooks, had the same pulsed-field gel electrophoresis profile and belonged to the human biotype, suggesting that the contamination causing the outbreak most likely originated from a food handler. Moreover, improper storage of the dessert, at room temperature for about 5 h, permitted microbial growth and SEA production. This study underlines the importance of both laboratory evidence and epidemiological data for outbreak investigation.